Plant Guide

Bear Garlic – Everything You Need to Know

admin / July 9, 2021
Bear Garlic

Bear garlic (Allium Ursinum), appreciated for its aromatic qualities, must be harvested with extreme care. If confused with colchicum or thrush, poisoning can be fatal.

Spring marks the flowering of bear garlic! This edible plant, highly appreciated for its vitamins and minerals in addition to its taste, can easily be found in the undergrowth. But be careful, its harvest must be done with great care to avoid accidents. Improper identification of the plant can lead to serious poisoning. Poisoning can even be fatal and, for example, cost a man his life last year at this time after confusing bear garlic with colchicine, which is extremely toxic because of the colchicine it contains. Care should be taken not to confuse it also with thrush, the leaves of which are similar, toxic also if ingested.

Before harvesting what you think is bear garlic, carefully examine the leaves of the plant as well as the white star flowers (as the song says, the colchicums bloom in late summer and are purple). Rely on the smell, the plant must smell garlic when you wrinkle the leaves. In case of doubt, it is better not to consume the plant. If you have any doubt after ingestion, contact the poison control center immediately.

Why this plant called “bear garlic”?

Bear garlic is a variety of garlic that grows naturally in the undergrowth and the mountains. Bears are particularly fond of this plant, hence the name! It is also called bear garlic or wild garlic.

Where is bear garlic found? And how to recognize it?

You can find garlic from bears at the turn of a forest walk in shady places. When it is not in bloom, its leaves are sometimes confused with those of thrush or Colchis, which are very toxic and therefore dangerous if ingested. It is enough to wrinkle them to have the confirmation that it is indeed garlic thanks to its strong smell. It is flowering in May forms white carpets in the forests, you can not go wrong! The spherical umbel inflorescence is composed of a multitude of small white star flowers. If you have any doubts, do not take any risks because an error can easily cause intoxication.

Garlic leaves of bears, not to be confused with thrush or Colchis. 

Harvesting bear garlic seeds

You can harvest your garlic seeds from bears! Either at home, if you already have them, or in the forest, if you have found some. For this, you just need to cut the umbels at the end of flowering, at the end of June approximately. Let them dry for 2 weeks in a cool and well-ventilated room. They must then be shaken over a container to retrieve the small seeds.

Another technique of multiplication is the division of bulbs. Indeed, each bulb forms bulbils that can be replanted. Plants at least 3-4 years old are then dug up, the bulbils are separated from the mother bulb and each splinter is replanted in a different place.

Where to plant bear garlic?

This regular of the undergrowth appreciates a shaded exposure, a rich and fresh soil.

When and how to plant bear garlic?

Bear garlic is sown in July, once the earth is well warmed.

1. Start by setting the stage by enriching it with compost.

2. Sow clear, on the fly.

3. Cover with a thin layer of earth or leaf potting soil.

4. Water in fine rain and keep wet until emergence.


Water regularly so that the soil remains fresh. Do not hesitate to install mulching to avoid evaporation of water. Be careful, bear garlic is an invasive plant. Apart from flowering, it is not noticed, but it colonizes the soil with its bulbs and multiplies very quickly. Thus, it prevents the development of any other plant nearby.

How to harvest garlic from bears?  

Cultivated since always, it becomes furiously trending again. It must be said that this plant as beautiful as it is good works wonders in cooking! Follow our tips to choose, keep and use it well. We wait 3 years before harvesting the first garlic bulbs from bears. This is an opportunity to thin out leaving 20 cm between each plant and make some reserves. Harvesting takes place between May and June. Its leaves are also consumed from April to June, which can be preserved by freezing them. The bulbs are stored for about a week and can also be frozen once chopped menu.